NISKAYUNA – As people approached the doors of the Niskayuna Co-op they pulled out the cloth materials some had put away just a couple months ago and looped the masks back around their ears before entering the grocery store.
The Niskayuna Co-op is one of the first known businesses in the county requiring all employees and customers to wear masks, regardless of their vaccination status.
The announcement comes as Schenectady County has been deemed a county with substantial transition risk under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new guidelines.
“We just want to make sure everybody is safe,” Shannon Risley, general manager at the co-op, said Tuesday.
She said the Co-op can provide a mask to people upon entry if they need one and are still offering curbside pickup if people just don’t feel comfortable at all.
Shoppers didn’t seem to mind masking up.
“I’m really happy to wear the mask, especially with all the Delta variant stuff,” said Day Mayer, a former physician and retired professor of Emergency Medicine at Albany Medical College.
Jim Comly was all for the requirement.
“I think it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
Comly and his wife have been wearing their masks wherever they go anyway. Comly said that’s because his wife, Lucy, is immune compromised and even though she’s vaccinated she does not have any antibodies to the virus.
“She has to act as if she’s not been vaccinated,” he said.
But while the store is requiring masks it is not requiring its employees to be vaccinated. However, Risley said they strongly recommend to their employees that they be vaccinated.
Those entering Price Chopper or Market 32 stores don’t have to mask up, yet.
“We’re monitoring the situation in all six states,” said Mona Golub, vice president of public relations and consumer affairs for the company.
She said no decisions have been made regarding masks or requiring vaccines for employees.
Stewart’s also isn’t requiring employees to be vaccinated, said Erica Komoroske, the director of public affairs for Stewart’s Shops. Unvaccinated employees and customers are expected to wear masks, though.
Other large companies like Target and Kohl’s are requiring employees to wear masks, according to several published reports. Walmart is requiring certain employees to be vaccinated by Oct. 4 and giving others incentives to do the same.
Schenectady County Manager Rory Fluman said the county is continuing to also give an additional personal day to employees that get vaccinated. He’s also working with unions to get employees at Glendale Nursing Home vaccinated.
As licensed professionals in the health industry “it’s part of the culture of accepting the job,” he said.
However, Fluman said no mask mandate is forthcoming because “enforcement and mandating is highly difficult.” Employees who are not vaccinated must be tested once a week for COVID-19.
He said he’s spoken to other county officials in the region who shared similar views.
But he said the county will continue to monitor the number of positive cases it has.
“It’s fluid, we’re watching this every day,” he said.
Whatever decisions are decided, Mayer said, people have to be patient. He said the CDC will change its directives from time to time as the country progresses through the pandemic.
“There’s always new data coming out,” he said.